THE current longest serving secondary school head teacher in North Yorkshire is retiring.

Geoff Mitchell, 62, will retire as head teacher of Tadcaster Grammar School at the end of August, by which time he will have been at the helm for 16 years. Before that he was the head at Boroughbridge for five years.

With 1,600 pupils and 300 of those in its sixth form, Tadcaster Grammar takes youngsters from the town and surrounding villages, as well as Copmanthorpe, Bishopthorpe and Dringhouses. Mr Mitchell said he hoped to leave a lasting legacy for a school he feels passionate about.

He said: “It has been a privilege to have led this truly exceptional school during the last 16 years.

“I’m particularly proud of the role I have been able to play with parents and I have really enjoyed engaging with them. I am a teaching head, something I think is very important. It’s difficult to lead a school without that engagement with the pupils.”

Mr Mitchell moved to Ripon, where he lives today, with his wife Lyn when he started at Boroughbridge High in 1993.

In September 1998 he took over the reins from David Impey, head at Tadcaster. On leaving, he said: “I will take with me some of the fondest memories possible through my engagement with the students of this school, whose respect and professional friendship has been a highlight of my career.”

He said the lowest point in his career was the death of pupil Joe Lister who drowned on a school caving trip in November 2005, but Mr Mitchell said the school community’s ability to pull together in the aftermath had a huge impact.

Deputy head Wendy Fraser said: “The affection which is felt for Geoff by all members of the school community, not least the students, is immense. It is with mixed emotions that we will say farewell to him in the summer.”

When he retires the geography specialist said he planned to travel abroad with trips to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South East Asia on the cards. His retirement coincides with his 40th wedding anniversary.

He also wants to spend more time with his family – children, Lewis, 35, Matthew, 33 and Lindsay, 31 and his three grandchildren, Tristan, nine, three-year-old Georgia and Isla, two.

North Yorkshire County Council’s director of children’s services, Pete Dwyer, said: “Geoff is an exceptional head teacher who will be missed by pupils, staff and the wider community.”

Tadcaster governors will be interviewing for Mr Mitchell’s successor next month and hope to appoint before the start of the summer term so the new head will be in post from September.